There are many myths about eating disorders. Learning the truth can help you, whether you have an eating disorder or suspect that a loved one does.
Eating disorders are conditions in which a person exhibits unhealthy attitudes and behaviors towards food. The most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia and binge eating disorder. People with these disorders have compulsions towards food that may lead them to starve themselves or eat abnormally large amounts of food. Some people even vomit or use laxatives to expel what they’ve eaten.
1. Eating Disorders Only Affect Females
It is a popular misconception that eating disorders only affect females. The truth is eating disorders are more frequently diagnosed in females than in males, but males are vulnerable to them as well. In fact, approximately 25 percent of childhood anorexia cases are diagnosed in male children. Interestingly, some researchers believe males and females develop binge eating disorder in equal numbers. Also, females may seek help more often than males with eating disorders do. This may lead to the under-reporting of these conditions in males.
2. It’s Not an Illness
Often, people think those with eating disorders are faking it in an effort to get attention. They believe a person with an eating disorder can simply stop her behaviors at any time. Unfortunately, this is not true. A person with an eating disorder does have an illness. In fact, the condition may be more complex than some others because it is a combination of a medical and psychological illness.
3. They’re Not Common
Since eating disorders are not discernible with the naked eye, many people believe they are rare. In fact, they are quite common and are being diagnosed in rising numbers around the world. According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), as many as 15 percent of females under the age of 30 may suffer from some type of eating disorder. It is third in line among illnesses that affect females during the teen years. Researchers also believe that a significant percentage of the population has some type of eating disorder, yet it is never diagnosed.
4. Most Eating Disorders Aren’t Serious
Some people consider anorexia nervosa a serious eating disorder, but dismiss others as minor. This is not true, however. A person with any type of eating disorder can suffer serious mental and physical effects. For example, binge eating disorder can lead to depression and obesity, which is often accompanied by health problems. Likewise, the purging common in bulimia could upset a person’s electrolyte balance and prove fatal.
If you or someone you love has an eating disorder, contact your doctor for help. Your doctor may coordinate the efforts of a nutritional expert and therapist to help you to develop better eating habits and a healthier body image. There are many effective therapies available.